Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blocking a Fur Felt Hat...before France!

I have been busy packing my bags for France for the last few days, but have had loads of nervous energy that I had to expend some way.  So I've been making hats!  What else?

This Summer I was lucky enough to purchase about 15 fabulous vintage hatblocks and I've been using those with some soft, luxurious fur felt hoods.  This post is about the latest hat from one of the blocks.

Here's one shot of the final product.  The photos are not going to show the interesting color of this felt.  It is somewhere between hot pink and orange, with a tint of purple-blue.  At first I didn't like it but it has grown on me.

Here's the block covered in Press n Seal, which works much better than clingwrap.  (It actually sticks to the block and protects it better.) I love the deep 'S' in the tip.  This is the kind of block that creates the complete hat, not just a crown that will be added to a brim.  I'm not keen on brim brimmed hats so this suits me just fine.

...and a better view of the tip.

I've steamed the hood and pulled it over the block, using a wide elastic band to hold it against the block at the headsize opening.  That elastic also allows me to pull any fullness under it.  I've used smooth roping to hold the felt against the tip indent--the 'S' on top.

After the felt has cooled down and dried I remove the roping and let it continue to dry underneath.  I don't saturate my felts with water as some milliners do.  The steam and maybe a spritz of water where needed work just fine, and it cuts WAY down on the drying time!

I don't like stiff felts so I don't always use sizing on my felts.  However, the fur felt in pretty flexible and I want it to be a little stiffer, particularly to help hold the shape of the 'S'.  I sprayed the inside of the hood with felt stiffener, and used a foam brush to help the stiffener penetrate the felt.

Here I've cut the excess away from the bottom of the form so that I'm left with the hat shape.

I've tucked under the edge of the hat so that there isn't a raw edge to the headsize opening.  I've used clothespins to help hold the edge under, plus I've dampened the edge to help hold it to the inside.  The pins are also helping to hold the hat up without it laying flat on the table and perhaps misshaping the hat shape.

After I've creased the edge of the hat I then unfold it and pin my petersham ribbon to the edge.  I love to add a different color petersham as a surprise to the inside of the hat! Sew on with a very tiny stitch.  No visible stitches!!!

To help keep the 'S' in the tip I've added some invisible stitching to the outside of the hat, but very visible on the inside.  I cross back and forth on the inside, pulling the edges of the 'S' toward each other.

Not sure how much you can see here, but this is the inside of the hat with the stitches to hold the 'S'.  Stitches are to the right of the needle in this picture.  I've seen this technique in many vintage hats to help hold a crease, a shape, an edge.

Front view with the fan made from the roundings cut from the edge.

Further around the side with the fan and the velvet orangy-red velvet ribbon with the purple satin underside, laid out in a chevron style.

Close-up of the velvet ribbon chevron.

I will be posting again once I return from my teaching trip to France.  I hope to have some fantastic pictures of some amazing millinery establishments in Paris.  Stay tuned and I'll see you in about 4 weeks!!!

 We will be making some additional changes to the look of the blog over the next few weeks.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Block Making and Felt Hats — Millinery Class at JCCFS

This post is Part Two of my teaching trip to John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. Part One is the entry below this one. Hope you enjoy my pictures and descriptions.

Teachers and students stay in housing on the campus of the School, all spread out over 300 acres! Luckily the housing is usually pretty close to the center of it all...and the studios. There is even a campground if you love camping. I had two students stay in tents while they were at the School.

If you saw my last post you know I woke up every morning and made a picture of sunrise. Here I was a little early for the sunrise shot but I loved the glow of the sun peaking over the mountains just seconds before it popped over the ridge.

This class was entitled Block Making and the Felt Hat and was a weekend class. We started on Friday night, then worked all day Saturday, and only for about an hour on a short amount of time to create. The purpose was to create your own hatblock, which you designed yourself, and then block a fur felt hood over it.

The class spent a good 3 hours carving their blocks. Some created two blocks! We were all covered in dust when we got to lunch that day. Most said they loved the physicality of carving the blocks. It IS stress-relieving...that is, if the block turns out like you like. Ha!

Cory, one of two Hosts at the School, begins the steaming and blocking of her fur felt.

Robbie chose a bronze fur felt. She spent a considerable amount of time carving her block. She is a graphic designer and therefore has a great eye for lines on a block/hat.

Right before we left for 'Show and Tell', where all classes at the School show their work from the weekend, we went out to the Festival Barn and made pictures. Enjoy these pictures of hats made from blocks the students created themselves. I think you will be amazed!

Carla's hat.
Jennie's hat.

Cory's hat.

Mollie's hat.

Terri's hat.

Leonard's hat.

Susan's hat.

Robbie's hat.

All the hats! We displayed them so that the audience could see the block that was created in class and the hat that came off that block. They were impressed! And so was I! Great job, class! I believe this was the best group of hatblocks to come out of one of my blockmaking classes.

Oh yes! The group shot of everyone in the class.

I love John C. Campbell Folk School and the beautiful countryside around it. Here are a few shots around the school I hope you will enjoy.

The new blacksmithing studio. Notice the HUGE hammer over the door and the anvils holding the beams. Spectacular building!

While this picture is looking East, over the range where I made my sunrise shots, this is actually sunset and the colors from the West are tinting the clouds in the East. So peaceful.

With that said I will end the story of this year's teaching trip to JCCFS. Already looking forward to next year. Hope you can join us in August 2012!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Straw Hats Class at John C. Campbell Folk School

I just spent an incredible 8 days of teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School in the mountains of North Carolina. I live at the beach in North Carolina, so this place is about as far away from me as you can get and still be in the same state. I love the beach...but I also love the mountains.

This was my second time to teach at the Folk School. I cannot say enough good things about it: the remoteness, the mountains, the staff, the FOOD, the activities, and some very enthusiastic students.

This post is strictly about the weeklong class. Next post will be about the weekend class.

There were other classes going on at the Folk School as well, maybe 6 or 8 others. Anything from making chocolate truffles (we all wanted to be their friends), to paper arts, to blacksmithing, to dulcimer building, and more.

Bear with me as I try to give you a taste of what it is like to be in this magical place.

Coming out of the dining hall one evening I walked past this beautifully lit bunch of flowers. I don't know what they are called but I've seen them all my life. Folklore is that once these flowers show up the first frost of the year is 6 weeks away. Loved the natural spotlight! See the mushrooms? They are carved, probably from some long ago woodcarving class, and randomly placed around the flower beds.

This is Jan Davidson, Director of the Folk School. Each morning the day starts with MorningSong. Jan told us the history of the School and how it came to be in Brasstown, NC. I wish I had the space here to tell you the whole amazing story, but if you are interested, I'd suggest going to their webpage. Interesting little note: before I was Jan Wutkowski, I was Jan Davidson. Last year when I taught at the School I didn't get to meet him, but this year I did! Turns out we had 'googled' each other for years! He's a great, gregarious guy; totally dedicated to the School, and a talented musician as well.

One of the locals at MorningSong. What's the BFD? Brasstown Fire Department!!

Reed, one of the staff the School, plays Dobro, or resonator guitar, for he build in a class at JCCFS! He did one of my favorite songs, 'Dear Abby' by John Prine!

One night a week the School has a Contra, Square, Folk Dance for students and locals. A traditional band of fiddle, autoharp, and guitar played for this dance. I had done a little square dancing in college but never some of the other traditional dances, many which come from England, Scotland, Ireland. These were the people who immigrated and settled this region of America and that is where the songs, dances, instruments originated. That's Victoria, one of my students whirling on the dance floor.

I went to the dance to observe. But the locals don't allow that! They want everyone dancing!! So I did...and I do-see-doed a hole in the bottom of my foot! But what fun!! I'd do it again in a second!

'Deuce' showed up early one morning and walked me to breakfast. We were walking through the woods on the way to the dining hall and he was bouncing and running through the woods chasing squirrels, then coming right back to my side. I said, "Turn around and let me take your picture." He DID! And I got this shot of him. He had the most amazing crystal blue eyes. What a cool dog. I've have taken him home in a minute but his owner came and got him after he stayed all day...looking for a class to take I guess.

A few more shots (thanks for indulging me) and then on to the hats.

Every morning I got up and took a picture out my second story window of Farm House. Some days you couldn't see the mountains in the distance for the fog. Beautiful and eerie.

Other days the sun came up bright and shining!

I love this place! Can you tell yet?

OK, so now on to the class itself. There were 9 students in the class, and the vast majority had never made any kind of hat before. A couple had made some things and were self-taught. We were basically starting from A and trying to get to Z.

We worked a parisisal capeline (blocking, cutting, wiring, petersham), worked with sewn braid, and blocked sinamay on crown and brim blocks (and all the skills that go into putting those together), plus some featherwork.

Carol Ann with her sinamay crown and brim, putting in the petersham.

Jeanne (all the way from Oregon) finishing up her incredible two-toned sewn braid crown. Brim you'll see later.

Suzanne starting to work on her blocked brim. Lots of work goes into the processes for each kind of straw.

Leonard (all the way from California) starts the 'button' in the tip of his sewn braid Fedora. Sometimes when I teach sewn braid I hear that it is too repetitious. However, this class LOVED sewn braid. And they created some fabulous hats from it.

Susan's cloche braid hat with sequined applique. She chose not to make a brim for this hat. Love it, Susan!

Jeanne's parisisal capeline with a free-formed brim after wiring. See the leaf? That was made during the week by one of the blacksmithing students she became friends with during the class. Much prettier than this picture shows. These are the kind of friendships that develop over the week--sharing, telling stories, laughing, dancing, eating. That's JCCFS!

Cory, one of the Hosts for the School, finishing up her sinamay hat. Pretty in Black!

Couple of shots of Jeanne's sewn braid hat after it was finished. Front view.

Back view. Love the two-toned look. Putting feather pieces together was another of the skills they learned during the week. Here you see bleached peacock, biot, pheasant, and coq.

Victoria (you saw her dancing in the red skirt earlier in the post) is a Work Study student at the School. Great eye for detailed work. She was our speedy sewer!

And her finished hat! Love the aqua braid and that she chose the Fedora style. Very nice!

Two shots of Carol Ann's sewn braid hat. She used the tip of the Fedora block but stopped there to make it a fascinator. Simple and elegant. Great lines of the hat too.

OK, Suzanne! She sewed a fascinator base out of sewn braid but couldn't decide how to finish it. She tried numerous ideas. Here she decides it should just be a pirate's eye patch!!

I left Suzanne and several others in the studio the last night of class at around 9pm. They can stay as long as they like in the studio's at night--not sure how late they stayed that night! The next morning I came in to find what Suzanne decided to do with her fascinator base...she calls it 'The Night Aliens Invaded the Millinery Shop.' What a hoot! You can't tell, but there are tiny 'aliens' perched in the feathers. Suzanne had a great sense of humor and it carried through to her hats. You go, Suzanne!

Couple of other sinamay hats on display; one is Leonard's (top) and the other is Cory's. Great job!

Cory's sewn braid hat in navy straw. I love this straw and used it myself for the instructor piece all teachers are required to submit for the week.

Cory's finished product after adding some swooping pheasant feathers and a bit of peacock.

The class, with me on the left, minus two who couldn't make it to the final 'Show and Tell' all classes present the last day of the week. While we displayed our hats on a table for everyone to see, when the final moment came we donned our hats and did an impromptu fashion show to the front of the exhibit hall. People loved it! We got sooo much buzz from the other students throughout the week. I even had several tell me they'll be taking millinery classes next year!

Thanks, John C. Campbell Folk School! Can't wait to get back next year!!!